Date of Award

Summer 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


Common sense that is supported by research tells us that when a teacher is absent from the classroom, student learning is disrupted. When that teacher is repeatedly absent, student performance can be significantly impacted in a negative way. The more days a teacher is out of the classroom, the lower their students tend to score on standardized tests. Nationally, teachers are absent from the classroom on average 10 days per year. Cobb County School District teachers are out of the classroom on average 14 days per year. There are other reasons to be concerned with teacher absenteeism:

• Financial costs to the school system – The Cobb County School District spent approximately $8.5 million dollars to pay for classroom and clinic nurse substitutes during the 2008/2009 school year.

• Students attending school in low socioeconomic areas experience more teacher absences. Research tells us that teachers tend to be absent more often from low-socioeconomic schools, which has a detrimental affect on students who are already struggling.

• Unmonitored usage of leave in a school can affect the absence behavior of employees, leading to more leave usage.

This analysis was conducted in the Cobb County School District, a large suburban school district with a total number of 114 schools, more than 6,800 classroom teachers, and more than 106,000 students. Data was collected on 453 third-grade teachers and 7683 third-grade students from 64 elementary schools. A regression analysis was performed on the variables of all Cobb County third-grade teacher absenteeism rates and their student scores on the math and reading sections on the Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT). A regression analysis was also performed on the percentage of students receiving free and/or reduced lunch per school and those students’ scores on the math and reading sections of the CRCT.

The results of the analysis support previous research findings that higher teacher absenteeism leads to lower student math scores on standardized tests. This study also found that students attending low-socioeconomic area schools scored significantly lower on the reading and math sections of the Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT).

Recommendations to address this issue include better collection and monitoring of teacher absenteeism data, requiring teachers to make personal contact with the principal or other administrator when reporting absences, and implementing incentive programs to improve teacher attendance.